Is it too late now to say sorry?

Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
Is it too late now to say sorry?
'The question remains: is it enough to say sorry, now that the physical and psychological damage has been done?'

Women and men today – and I’m not talking about the second decade of the new millennium – but today, owe a great debt to the flood of women and men who have come forward to tell their own stories of sexual abuse and/or harassment since the Weinstein Watergate erupted in October of this year.

One can only hope that what began as the most important slogan of the second decade of the millennium – #MeToo – will finally bring to the fore a heightened understanding of the word no. No is not a coy yes, a point we’ve adamantly pointed out in the phrase no means no; a phrase that highlights an essential misunderstanding of what the word means. I say misunderstanding because of all the people for whom the word could conveniently mean partly yes, or the millisecond before yes if you want a career in this town, or a withheld yes.

And they all fall down

The Hollywood men accused of sexual misconduct

But today, it isn’t about no meaning no anymore – it’s about being empowered enough to say no full stop, because people finally know what the word means. I’d like to think there’s no need for a semantics of no because the word isn’t nuanced or qualitative or contextual: it is what it is. There is no need for a poetry of no, because no is no longer open to interpretation.

But in any power play, no has always been subject to interpretation. Those outed for their willful misunderstanding of no have appended the word with two syllables, instead of the one: sorry. We watch the news for the latest hollow apology, but for the victimized many, the word seems to be too little, too late. It seems less an honest admission than an absolute fear of consequence. You can hear the despair in the eleventh-hour apology.  The underlying regret behind a career it took a lifetime to build and a second to destroy.

The question remains: is it enough to say sorry, now that the physical and psychological damage has been done? Is it an authentic utterance, or is it a last ditch effort to salvage a decades-long climb to power and prestige? I vote for the latter. Ask the woman summoned into a remote office by a powerful media player – the same office with a secret button that locks a door against any interventions from the outside world; ask a girl into whose room a renowned artist slips in the dead of night, while he takes liberties as she sleeps.

And when Bieber launches into a husky castrato, begging for forgiveness for all his misdemeanors, tell him yes, it’s too late.  He should have known better, as they all should have known better: it’s far, far too late. Enjoy the view, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s a long, long way down.

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